Recruiting plant identifiers for beetle project

I am working on a taxonomy project with the beetle genus Ripiphorus. I would like to recruit iNaturalist plant identifiers to comb through observations of this genus in North America and add plant names to the field “Name of associated plant” for observations that show beetles actively ovipositing (example below).

This data will be used in species descriptions and discussions of beetle behavior/life cycles. Anyone involved will be explicitly acknowledged in the paper (if you tell me, it’s hard to check who added fields en masse) and I am willing to discuss co-authorship for highly motivated individuals.


At a glance, they all look like composites, which is a really diverse group and relies on fiddly traits for ID. Most of the photos are so closeup that ID will be hard. This might call for an iNat project page and a composite specialist. Maybe you could get one to look at the photos and give you a feel for how many are likely to be identifiable, and what minimum traits they’d need to see, then maybe you could recruit beetle enthusiasts to go out and get the photos? Or maybe people who have already submitted extreme closeups could add other photos that showed more of the plants? It sounds fun but challenging.


It might also be helpful to know whether you need course or fine IDs. I might be able to help with tentative IDs in my area (central VA).

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Yes, coarse IDs are fine. [Please message me if you do look at any mid-Atlantic plants so I can record your name and title.] Any beetle taxonomists using the paper probably won’t care below tribe or genus. In some cases, observers have notes or posted observations of the plants separately or may be willing to provide information and pictures, which I can start asking for with a copy paste message.

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The problem with this beetle family is the adults are short lived and people rarely encounter them on purpose. Right time, right place. Some observers may have the option to revisit locations for additional plant pictures, but I’ll take whatever I can get.

I’ll work on the second part by asking observers to post plant additional pictures, or IDs if they already know.


I did some random ones that likely weren’t ovipositing. Probably lots more that could be done fairly easily at least to family. Links to the ones needing plant IDs would help people get where they need to go.

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I don’t know a way to sort observations with and without an observation field. The full set would be

Copy paste is ready. If you help with plant IDs, feel free to use and edit down to the plant-specific parts.

Thank you for contributing an observation of a wedge-shaped beetle to iNaturalist. This data will be used in an upcoming taxonomic publication covering species in the genus Ripiphorus across North and Central America.

*How you can help:*

1. Step 1 is already complete! Thank you for sharing your sighting of this uncommon group of beetles with the scientific community.
2. If your observation features **a female Ripiphorus actively ovipositing**, please identify the plant species and add this name to the observation field "Name of associated plant." Enter your best guess if you don't know the species or genus. 
3. If your beetle is male (see tips below), please annotate gender and continue looking for active females in your area.
4. If you need help identifying the plant, please make a separate iNaturalist observation with any clear photos of flowers, flower buds, stems, and leaves you have available and use the "Associated observation" field to link the plant back to this observation.
5. As you are able, please watch for bees visiting the flowers. Most Ripiphorus species are nest parasites of sweat bees (family Halictidae) and the beetle's size should give you a rough idea of which bees in your area it might use as hosts. Use the same "Name of associated plant" field if you photograph and upload any bees.

*How do I know if this is a female Ripiphorus actively ovipositing?*

Male Ripiphorus beetles have long, often orange or brown, antennae with mostly even lengths. For example:
Female Ripiphorus beetles have short, comb-like antennae that usually taper towards the end. An ovipositing female will mount a flower bud and lift her rear end to extend her ovipositor, which faces down and forwards. For example:

Let me know if you have any questions - Elliott

If they are mostly daisies - you need
the flower’s ‘face’ - which your beetle is probably sitting on? Tick

But also the bracts below, and the leaf details, and a wide view for scale and habitat. Maybe? (Bracts below, leaves and wide view for 4)

Someone local can easily do the most common species, and then pick out what might be more interesting.


I’m in.
Re: posting additional photos of plant host. It is standard practice to create a second observation for the plant. Then use either the Description field or a Comment to reference the URL for the companion observation.
With respect to ID’ing plants, unless you know the key charateristics of the species in question, I’d advise capturing as much plant detail as possible, just really overdo it: arrangement of the blossoms, blossom characteristics front, back and sideways; fruit characteristics; leaf shape and arrangement, hairiness top and bottom, and don’t forget petioles and stipules; stem characteristics distally, mid-stem, and basally; presence of thorns, bristles etc. Sometimes even galls are useful, as they can be quite host-specific.
Lastly, don’t overlook context. Describe the habitat: soil, plant community, elevation, proximity to water, etc. Is there evidence that this plant is perennial? Rhizomatous? Does it have a woody caudex? (Please do not dig!)


Xanthisma gracilis for this one

Thanks Ellen! I annotated all of my photos last night - all on the perennial Xanthisma spinulosum in my garden - and some of the other southwest observations which often use Baileya.

I just did most of them in AZ (only 55 observations, wasn’t hard since me and native plants are besties), and cool spoiler alert, they are like this :crossed_fingers: with Desert Marigolds. The big fat majority of of the observations are desert marigold, then globemallow with a small few, and the rest I will ID after I go eat. If I don’t know the genus at least, I’ll ask someone who I definately know will~ I’ll let you know when I fin.


Thank you and @arboretum_amy and everyone else who’s helped today. We are exponentially expanding our understanding of this beetle genus.

P.S. Future research topics - why and how are these beetles attracted to a specific plant? are they limited to a single host plant and bee? what happens if a bee nest is already home to another nest parasite, say bee fly or cuckoo bee?


Okay, finished, here’s all your AZ info as of 8-23-23:

55 Arizona Ripiphorus Observations:

27 Desert Marigold
4 Sweetbush
2 Globemallows
2 Mesquite
2 Barrel Cactus
2 Paperflower
1 Milkweed
1 Galleta Grass
1 NMX Thistle
1 Pelotazo
1 Cholla

9 No Plant
2 Cannot Be Determined


Would it hurt anything if I annotate the photos of males, or females who aren’t ovipositing? I realize it isn’t necessary, but would any one be annoyed if I did?

The plants males are found on are not critical to their life cycle, so it would “clutter” the data in my view

Okay, I will do my best not to do it then. Sorry for any mistakes. I think I understand the antennae for each sex, but sometimes it’s not clear to me whether the female is ovipositing.

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Update about a week later: 192 annotated observations for this genus of beetles
That’s a lot of wonderful data to analyze!


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